Monday, June 30, 2014

Only the Nose Knows

Noses.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  Big, small, long, short, beautiful, cute, aquiline … And really, really ugly – like the ones in this post …


Poor Ron.  This is the kind of guy who the action shot was made for.  

Ron Woods was one of those Yankees who was unfortunate enough to be on the team during the late 60s and early 70s – i.e., back when they were terrible.  For some reason, I really liked those teams, and can name many of their “stars” right off the top of my head – Horace Clarke, Roy White, Mel Stottlemyre, Bobby Murcer, Danny Cater, Fritz Peterson …

Ron was actually up with the Yankees for only two and a half years. He also played three and a half with the Expos and had a cup of coffee with the Tigers. Overall, it was six years, 1200-some at bats, 26 homers, and a .233 average.

Great zombie stare, by the way.

See what I mean?

And, no, Ron did not play the drums for the Rolling Stones in the offseason.

Jim’s giving it his best Elvis sneer.  Hate to say it, but it’s just not working.  Next year, try the action shot, Jim.

Jim is usually referred to as Jim Ray Hart. That’s so we don’t confuse him with St. Louis Cardinals quarterback Jim Hart. Yeah, I know, happens to me all the time …

As a third baseman, Jim Ray Hart was a pretty decent hitter. Over 12 years, he totaled not quite 4,000 at bats, 170 dingers, almost 600 RBIs, and a decent .278 average. He was also a one-time All Star, came in second in RoY voting, and once hit for the cycle. 

He also led the whole league in errors one year. Jim Ray also once owned up that he didn’t enjoy the hot corner that much, noting that the batters were “just too damn close.” He would have made a perfect DH. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it over to the AL until injuries and fast living had pretty much done him in.

Nothing like a little Bozo hair to bring attention to the ol’ schnozzola.

It’s hard to believe, but Jason Thompson was once one of my favorites. Let me explain …

At the time, I was going to grad school in Pittsburgh. It was the mid ‘80s, and the Buccos were terrible. I can name most of their “stars” off the top of my head as well – Jason, Johnny Ray, Rick Rhoden, Marvell Wynne, Sammy Khalifa, Sixto Lezcano, Trench Davis, Bob Kipper, Doug Frobel … You know, those guys.

Well, Jason fit right in. He did 31 hit homers one year with the Bucs (and make the All Star squad). Otherwise, though, he couldn’t break 20 (not something you want your first baseman and cleanup hitter to do). 

Overall, though, he wasn’t too bad. Over his short 11 years, he totaled almost 5,000 at bats, hit over 200 homers, knocked in not quite 800 runs, and made the All Star team no less than three times. He was a pretty decent first baseman as well.

Jason retired to the Detroit area, where he runs a baseball academy.

It’s like a giant squid. But it’s nothing like this guy’s giant squid.

Roger Metzger’s Wikipedia entry pretty much says it all: “A light-hitting shortstop, he was known for his strong defense and good running speed.” As for the first part, how about a .231 average? Second part? How about a Gold Glove in ’73? The last bit? Would leading the league in triples for two years do it for you?

Roger may, however, be most famous for the way he ended his career. In particular, he lost the tips of four fingers in a table saw accident. Yup, that would do it.

Most guys have a little too much schnozz.  Jerry, on the other hand, had a little too little.

Jerry Royster was in the bigs for 16 years, mostly as a super-sub. Indeed, he played every position but first, catcher, and pitcher. His career .249 and 40 home runs also speak more to his abilities in the field (not necessarily to those in the batter’s box). After hanging up his spikes, Jerry was a minor league manager, major league coach, major league manager (53-94), and a manager in South Korea as well. 

Next time, nix the profile shot, Jerry!

* - author has this card

More noses, from an earlier era, right here.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Rose by Any Other Name (‘70s Version, Alliterative Edition)

So, we’ve got the long ones, and the short ones, and now the ones that start with the same letter (that’s what “alliterative” means by the way).

Why not LeRin LaGrow? It’s French, non?

Lerrin LaGrow was up for ten years, playing for five different teams. He had an interesting career, putting in time as a starter, middle reliever, and closer (and definitely not necessarily in that order). 

Lerrin’s probably best known for the 1972 ALCS, when he threw at Bert Campaneris, who in turn threw his bat at Lerrin. Both were suspended for the rest of series. And, yes, you can see it all on YouTube.

Today, it looks like Lerrin acts as a business broker (whatever that is) and is headquartered in Arizona. Give him a call!

Sounds like something from Doctor Seuss.  If I remember correctly, I believe Larry Lintz’s loopa liked to lick linguine. 

Larry was one of MLB’s few designated runners. I’m sure he set some kind of record with the A’s in 1976 when he got in 68 games but had only one at bat. Somehow or other, though, he managed to steal 31 bases and score 21 runs.

Overall he got 616 at bats in 350 games, with 128 stolen bases and a .227 average. Gene Mauch, who Lintz played for in Montreal, once said Larry was the best player he had ever seen once he was on first base.

Scipio appears to be trying to read the number written in his cap. To ascertain whether he has the right one.  Scipio: take it off.  It’s a lot easier to read that way.  (Psst:  I think it’s a 39.)

Scipio Spinks had a lot of promise (he was traded straight up for Jerry Reuss once), but his career came to an abrupt end when he collided with Johnny Bench at home plate. Note to self … Do not collide with Johnny Bench at home plate.

The name? Scipio is from some Roman dudes who beat up on the Carthaginians. It was, at one time, a popular name among African Americans.  It means “staff,” like a shepherd’s staff. The Spinks is English and comes from the chaffinch (a kind of bird). I can’t decide which is worse – Scipio Spinks or Staff Chaffinch.

Cardell I can take. Camper I can take. Even something like Cardell Campell or Chris Camper, maybe. But, Cardell Camper? Definitely not.

After toiling for seven years in the minors, Cardell Camper was up in the bigs for less than a month. He got in three games total, starting one. Over his nine career innings, Cardell managed to post a perfect record (1-0) and strike out nine, though he did give up four earned runs.

His big claim to fame seems to be getting traded for Joe Charboneau, who would then go on to become Rookie of the Year for the Tribe. Cardell? Not so much.

Nyce nyme.  

Nyls Nyman was up for four years, but just barely. Overall, he tallied 357 at bats, but with 327 of those coming in one year. In toto, he hit .238 with two home runs. 

He’s now a coach at Kankakee Community College. Read all about it right here.

And a tip o’ the hat to Charlie Chant.  I’ve got him up for 19 major-league at-bats over two years but, alas, no baseball card.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Rose by Any Other Name (‘70s Version, Polysyllabic Edition)

So, we’ve got some shorter ones and some longer ones. Did you also know, that we’ve got some from the 50s and 60s as well? What is it about ballplayers and their crazy names?

There have been a few Cy’s over the years. By the 1970s, though, it was pretty much reserved for one guy. You may have heard of him before. (And, no, I’m not talking about Senor Acosta here.)

Cecilio (“Cy”) Acosta Miranda was up for four seasons, finishing with a 13-9 record, with 109 strikeouts. His main claim to fame was being the first AL pitcher to bat after the introduction of the designated hitter.

That other Cy? I understand he had a few more wins (oh, about 500) and K’s (around 2700, if I remember right). But other than that ... 

By the by, there were actually a couple of stars nicknamed “Cy” in the early days. My favorites are Cy Williams (led the NL in homers four times in the teens and twenties) and Cy Seymour (in 1905, he led the NL in hits, average, RBIs, doubles, and triples).

Billy Champion? Great name. Sounds like a ballplayer. Do notice the signature though. Buford Billy Champion, Jr.? Sounds like the guy with no teeth manning the fireworks shack just over the state line. Billy: this is an autograph. You’re not signing a mortgage here, okay?

We’ve met Billy before, where he was looking a tad unsure of himself. I shared some stats and info about Billy there. I’ll bet, though, you didn’t know that Billy:
  • Was a two-time minor league ERA leader
  • Was a minor league pitching coach
  • Was a scout for the Cubs
  • Was 6’4”
  • Blew out his elbow and had to retire (otherwise, you might have heard of him – he wasn’t bad at all)

Butch is not having a hard time spelling Cecil here. His real name was in fact Clell. Yup, Clell ... Makes “Butch” sound downright normal.

Butch Hobson was up for eight years – all but two with the Red Sox. He had one really nice year, hitting 30 homers and batting in 112. Unfortunately, he also couldn’t field to save his life. He also had a major elbow injury that shaved a couple of years off his career. And that’s why Butch is the only major leaguer to ever hit 30 homers in a season but finish with less than 100 for his career.

Butch also managed and was, in fact, the Red Sox skipper at age 41. He was with them for almost three years, finishing a little below .500. He’s been managing in the minors ever since. A cocaine bust in 1996 pretty much made sure that most of that managing experience was in independent leagues.

I always get this guy confused with Pitt Skiplock.

Skip Pitlock was actually born Lee Patrick Thomas Pitlock. Wow, four whole names! Sounds like that should have a “III” or “IV” or something after it as well. 

Skip was up for three years, finishing with an 8-8 record and a 4.53 ERA. Sounds like he was one of those pitchers who really didn’t know how to help himself out. At the plate, he finished with an .080 average, with 18 strikeouts in 25 at bats. He wasn’t too hot as a fielder either, coming in with a lifetime fielding percentage under .900.

By the way, if you live in the Chicago area, you can get a mortgage from Skip at A and N Mortgage Services. Tell ‘em Cliff sent you.

Celerino?  Did they call him Celery for short? 

Celerino Sanchez was not a bad prospect, but basically got crowded out of the Yankee’s hot corner by Graig Nettles. He once had the highest average in all of organized baseball, batting .448 in a Mexican League in 1966. This is his only card.

By the way, that patch on Celerino’s arm? It’s for the 50th anniversary of Yankee Stadium.
God, I hope this guy can steal a base …

Well …  Horace Speed did steal a couple of bases – four in three years and 131 games, to be exact. Unfortunately, he also got caught six times. He also has a little trouble “stealing first” – Horace finished his career with a .207 average.

And, yes, his nickname was indeed “Truth.”  

Gary Serum’s career was positively Pitlockian. Gary finished 10-12, with a 4.72 ERA, over three years. I have no idea how bad his batting and fielding were though.

Gary was actually a local boy. In fact, he was signed out of one of the Twins’ local tryout camps. And Gary stayed in the area after retirement as well. In fact, if you’re in the Anoka area, you can get a beer and some wings from Gary at Serum’s Good Time Emporium. Tell ‘em Cliff sent you.

I have no idea how this is pronounced.  Honestly, I think somebody must have just hit the keyboard with their elbow.  

Paul Thormodsgard is basically Gary Serum’s identical twin … at least stats-wise. Paul was up for three years [spooky noise], with the Twins the whole time [spooky noise], finishing with a 4.74 ERA [repeat noise]. 

So, what the heck is a “wockenfuss”?  Does it mean “frog stomper” in German?  Did John’s ancestors make wooden socks? Where could this one possibly come from?

John’s been here before, looking a little less well-kempt. I shared some stats there, but didn’t mention his unique batting stance. He basically turned his back to the pitcher, putting his feet very close together and pointing his lead foot back at the umpire. You can check it out right here.

Take one of those cringingly WASPy nicknames, like Kip or Poppy or Trey or Buffy.  Add strange ethnic surname.  Shake and pour.  Result?  Biff Pocoroba. 

Okay … So, the first thing we have to establish about Biff is that that is his actual name. “Biff” is not a nickname. The poor fellow was actually born “Biff Benedict Pocoroba.”

His stats? They were just okay (largely due to a fair amount of injuries). I’m talking ten years, 1500 or so at bats, a .257 average, and a mere 21 homers. He did make the All Star squad (albeit simply to catch Phil Niekro’s knuckleball).

By the way, if you live in the Altanta area, you can get a kielbasa or bratwurst from Biff at Sausage World, in Lilburn. Tell ‘em Cliff sent you.

I'm hoping Rusty doesn't run his own small business, ya know?

Rusty Kuntz just made it into this post, getting in five games in 1979. He would play six more years, getting 441 at bats total (and finishing with a .238 average and five homers). 

He has quite the entry on Wikipedia. It goes on for almost 1,800 words, somehow avoiding addressing the elephant in the room until the very last sentence.

Oh, his first name was actually Russell. Too bad they didn't call him Skip or Biff or Butch. Actually, nix that last one. Yeah, anything but that last one.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Rose by Any Other Name (‘70s Version, Monosyllabic Edition)

There's no shortage of funny names when it comes to ballplayers. Today, we're doing the short, sweet ones. Next week, we'll tackle the mouthfuls. And the week after that, we'll focus solely on astoundingly awful agglomerations of alliteration.

Are my eyes playing tricks on me, or is that the longest bat in the history of the major leagues?

You’ll find this a little hard to believe, but Boots was not this guy's real name. Nope, "Boots" was actually “Charles Frederick.”

Anyhoo, whatever his name is, this dude was up for six years, primarily as a backup outfielder. Over those six years, he totaled  1100-some at bats and eight (count them – eight!) homers. He’s still in baseball, at age 65, acting as a hitting coach for the independent league Evansville Otters.

Found this interesting link to a resolution in the NY State Senate, “Honoring Charles "Boots" Day upon the occasion of his induction into the Mohawk Valley Baseball Hall of Fame, February 11, 2012.” Thanks, Google!

When your real first name is Elliot, even a nickname like “Bump” sounds good.

Bump Wills is the son of Maury Wills. Bump was in the majors for six years, finishing with 3,000 at bats and not quite 200 steals. A real speedster like his dad, Bump still holds the Rangers record for steals in a year, with 52.

Bump later played in Japan, and is now a high school coach in Washington State.

Throop …  Isn’t that a childhood respiratory disease?

George Throop had a major league career of four years, but totaled only 42 innings. He finished with a perfect record, at 2-0.

Interestingly for such an odd name, there are several other George Throops out there, including a former chancellor of Washington University (in St. Louis) and some guy who’s walking across the country to raise awareness of something or other (sorry, I can't for the life of me remember what).

Oh, one final thing … Our George was a towering 6’7”.

Butch Edge ... Sounds like the name of a razor. A razor for real manly types.

Like Bump, Butch had a really lame first name. Poor Butch was actually born “Claude Lee.”  

His career, however, was more like George Throop’s. Somehow or other, though, Butch managed to package his 51 innings, record of 3-3, and ERA of 5.23 into only one year.

Uh, Butch? Maybe you could do something about those specs too, huh?

Too bad Bill’s not a Butch or a Boots or a Bump. Bump Zepp … I like it!

Bill’s career was rather Throopian as well. He played for three years, finishing with a 10-5 record. He actually started 20 games for the Twins once, in 1970.

Unfortunately, he also seems to have torn his UCL. And that was a couple of years before the recently departed Dr. Frank Jobe started whittling on Tommy John’s elbow. So that was pretty much it for our Bill.

By the way, tells me that Zepp is probably a variant of Zapp, which is itself a variant of Zapf, which means “bung” or “stopper,” which probably was given as a nickname to someone who owned a tavern or who may have simply been soused all the time

I’d like to buy a vowel …

Now, if this guy was called Collin, or Justin, or maybe even Larry, he may not have made it to this post. Combine Zdeb with Joe, though, and you’ve got a sure winner.

Joe was up for three seasons. Though he hit .272 overall, he only got 345 at bats. There’s a famous story about his coming to spring training with long hair (much longer than this). Spoiler alert: it didn’t go over too well.

Oh, the “e” is silent.

And here’s a tip of the hat to Frank Snook. He was up for 27 innings with the ‘73 Pads, but never got a card.